How to Estimate Remodeling Jobs

Good estimating is a skill.

Finding the right combination between price point and quality work takes time; the more you estimate the better you will become. Doing shoddy work or using inferior materials will hurt your business. Give the best estimate you can, and live with the results. Remodeling estimates generally involve bargaining, so include a buffer for reduction in your first price.

Always carry a working pen, your invoice/estimate book and calculator. Don't rely solely on your great math skills. Carry a ruler. Knowing material sizes will save you and your customer time and money. Make sure you understand what the customer wants done, before you go. Certain jobs will require estimating equipment; bring it with you the first time. Some standards are a ladder and a flashlight. A sketch pad and camera are valuable tools. Sketch the site design and dimensions. Take photographs for later reference.

See the site. Many people ask for phone estimates. This is a bad practice. Sites and material requirements may dramatically affect a quote. Talk the customer through the job specifics, including the type and style of materials wanted. Your measurement of dimensions may vary considerably from the customer's.

Figure out a time estimate for job completion. Only you know what your time is worth. Your time is more valuable (depending on your climate) during certain months out of the year, so if a client can wait until your slow season, you can afford to discount. Remember too, that a leaf-raking job does not pay the same as a tile-laying job. Level of skill required also governs price.

Calculate any material costs. Unless you are sure of material costs, you will need to speak with your supplier and check them based on the quality, quantity and style required. Supply houses can also be valuable resources for determine the value of a specific job. Ask them what their installers charge. If the customer is providing the materials, you can skip this step.

Write or print out the estimate. Answer customer questions. Set a date to begin. Collect a deposit.* Advise the customer of any delays. If you can't make the sale on the spot, follow up in 24 to 48 hours.

Things You Will Need

  • Invoice/estimate book
  • Ruler
  • Calculator
  • Sketch pad
  • Camera
  • Business cards

Tip

  • If you are estimating a job that is distant from your home, you may want to charge an estimate fee. You can subtract it from the bill if you're hired. Referrals are your best source of future income. Always ask for them. Carry business cards at all times. Include them with your estimate. Before-and-after photos can make good marketing materials and may help with any future disputes.

Warning

  • Never estimate a job that you do not have the skill to complete. Liability polices are a wise investment. *A deposit equal to material costs is preferable, but some states regulate the percentage of deposit collectible. Always check local and state contractor regulations.

About the Author

Michael L. Harris, an Indiana-based freelance actor/writer/filmmaker, has been published in "Keeping the Faith—Best Indiana Sermons" and in "Bluegrass Unlimited." His most recent film, "Samuel—A Journey of Discovery," released to festivals in 2010. He has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Brigham Young University, a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ball State and is certified as a paralegal.